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Hotel Key Cards, a Free Souvenir: Summer Travel Series, Part 2

How many times have you taken a plastic hotel key card home, either on purpose, or on accident? Our kids always thought they were a great free souvenir!

Hotel key cards took root in the United States in the 1980s, and those first key cards were fairly bland, usually just featuring the hotel’s logo. Hoteliers took note, however, that many of these key cards were not being returned and that people were taking them home as souvenirs. Enter the use of hotel key cards as a branding and marketing opportunity.

Hotel Key Cards, a Marketing Opportunity

One notable example of plastic key cards being used to promote a hotel chain is Holiday Inn’s hotel made from plastic key cards in New York City a few years ago. The chain was launching a massive campaign to promote the renovation of all Holiday Inn rooms across the country. They hired Bryan Berg to put his Guinness World Record card stacking skills to the test and created a 400-square-foot hotel room and reception area made from 200,000 Holiday Inn plastic key cards. It took Berg four months to complete. Watch the video below. It’s pretty amazing!

On a smaller note, many hotels and inns have begun using unique designs that actually encourage you to take the key card home. Yep, that’s right: Don’t feel bad if you forget to leave the hotel key card behind—they expect you’ll take it! Below is a sleek hotel key card from The Keating in San Diego, CA. It features a clear card with a frosted finish and raised ink, and it reflects the modern feel of the property.

The Keating Hotel Key Card

Hotel Key Cards, a Collector’s Item

So, what do travelers do with all of those hotel key cards they take home? Some travelers have turned to not only collecting the key cards, but trading them as well. In fact, there is even a website for hotel key card collectors, KeyCardCollector.com. Collectors are able to swap hotel key cards from all over the world, and the site has cataloged hundreds of images of key cards. And, for the serious collector, you can purchase hotel key cards on eBay.

Hotel Key Cards, an Upcycling Opportunity

Other travelers have turned to upcycling their hotel key cards into decorator items and even jewelry. We found some interesting ideas for upcycling hotel key cards on Pinterest.


Next time you travel, take the hotel key cards home, save them as a memento of your travels, sell them on eBay to a collector, or turn them into something new!

View Part 1 in our Summer Travel Series, Custom Luggage Tags.

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